In the name of Allah Almighty, the most merciful most compassionate.
My brothers the Shoura Council members, dear attendees: Accept all of you my best greetings.
In the blessings and with the help of God, let us open the third year of the fourth session of the Shura Council, appealing to Allah to make all our deeds true and faithful to him and let Him help us give the best service to our religion, nation and nationals.
We meet here today as customary every year to review what achievements your government has accomplished internally, contributing to the achievement of security and welfare as well as the participation of citizens, and what positions and policies it has adopted externally, causing a tangible impact on maintaining the national interest and enhancing regional and international peace and stability.
Among the graces God has bestowed on us is the religion of Islam and its noble principles, including the principle of shura (consultation) that leads to rationalization of decision-making in the areas that touch the interests of the nation and people. Your council has practiced this principle with all transparency and objectiveness, winning the trust of the leadership and meeting the aspirations of the people gearing towards development.
The Shura Council – accommodating skilled members belonging to all parts of the Kingdom and sectors of society – has become the government’s right arm in decision-making. It has also won citizens’ interest and appreciation as it manages to discuss vital issues in-depth and objectively. The Shura Council has also contributed through its participation in regional and international parliamentary gatherings as well as friendship committees to introducing the Kingdom’s views and positions on regional and international issues on one hand, and highlighting the achievements reached inside the country in all fields on the other.
The late King Abdulaziz founded and united this state on the basis of Islamic shari’ah. Consequently, unity replaced division; love replaced enmity and cooperation replaced antagonism. The Kingdom became a beacon of stability in an environment surrounded by troubles and wars. The challenge facing us lies in maintaining this national unity and deepening its implications. The incitement of religious struggle, the revival of regional disputes and the preference of one stratum of a society over another are all in contravention with Islam’s implications and tolerance and pose a threat to the national unity and the security of the society and the state. I hope that the national unity tops the Council’s interests.
The homeland is still facing the phenomenon of terrorism despite a recent retreat of the deviant group. It is regrettable to attribute criminal acts of aggression to Islam, the religion of mercy, love, tolerance, moderation and peace. The perpetrators of these acts have sought to destabilize security in the most important stronghold of Islam. I stress that cohesion and cooperation between the people and the government and vigilance and courage of security forces will withstand this deviant group. Peace and security are the most important pillars of a stable society and prerequisites for development. We are determined to confront terrorism in all its forms, however it might last and whatever it might cost, until this deviant group comes to its senses or is uprooted from Saudi society.
The Eighth Five-Year Plan 1425-1430H (2005-2009) aims to build on the achievements of the previous plans and to boost development. It has been designed according to a strategic perspective with the aim of achieving sustainable development. The plan has focused on a package of priorities, led by preserving Islamic values; enhancing national unity, social stability and national security; upgrading standards of living; providing job opportunities for Saudi jobseekers; developing the workforce and enhancing its skills; diversifying the economic base; increasing private sector contribution to development; achieving balanced development in all parts of the Kingdom; developing sciences, technology and informatics; supporting and encouraging scientific research and technological development, preserving and developing water resources; and protecting environment.
A follow-up report on the performance of the plan’s first year has revealed that in 1425-1426 H, the targeted goals were met and sometimes even exceeded.
Due to the importance of investment in the national development, we are planning to continue our support for the private sector to become a strategic partner in the economic development. We are also planning to remove all obstacles facing Saudi and foreign investors so that they can benefit, whenever possible, from the proportional privileges in the Saudi economy.
Moreover, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has surpassed a number of developmental goals outlined in the United Nations’ Millennium Declaration 2000. The Kingdom is also on its way to reaching new goals in this field even before the prescribed dates. What characterizes the Saudi experiment in its endeavors to achieve the Millennium's development targets is the great momentum of its efforts in successfully reaching the stated goals before their timed ceilings and successfully merging the development goals of the millennium into the Eighth Development Plan’s goals – making the developmental goals of the millennium part of the development address and the Kingdom’s long-term policies.
During my visits to the regions of the Kingdom, I was pleased to see a vast and comprehensive development. I noticed, however, that some parts of the country still need much care and interest before we reach a balanced development, a matter that we will do.
We have allocated part of the budget surpluses for last three years to reducing the public debt from SR 660 billion [$175.9 billion] in 1423-1424H [2002-2003], equivalent to 82 percent of the GDP, to SR366 billion [$97.5 billion] in 1426-1427H [2005-2006], representing 28 percent of the GDP.
A number of new developmental programs and projects have been accredited in addition to what has been set out in the Eighth Five-Year Plan and the State budget. These programs and projects include projects involving the Holy Mosque and sacred places; improvement of the country’s infrastructure; primary health care; general, higher and technical education; public housing; and upgrading the capital of development funds. The State’s reserves were also enhanced and the General Investment Fund was supported.
This year's budget augurs well as significant funds have been appropriated for achieving a qualitative leap in the field of human development, which is the basic pillar for comprehensive development and supporting health and social care by increasing funding for orphans, disabled and the poor.
In the political field, the Allegiance Commission has been issued to enhance the constitutional dimensions of assuming power. Municipal councils have practiced their local responsibilities after impartial and honorable elections. The number of civil institutions has increased, and they have contributed to making decisions with social and economic dimensions. The Human Rights Commission has been formed, its regulations issued and board of directors appointed. The King Abdulaziz Center for National Dialogue has played its role in propagating the culture of dialogue in society.
The coming year will witness more challenges and opportunities, and the State will continue its domestic development. It is hoped that the next stage will witness the launch of important national projects, including a comprehensive education development project; great economic cities; a system of science and technology; the structuring of the judiciary and its development; the establishment of a national commission on anti-corruption; combating unemployment through giving priority in employment to qualified Saudis; the expansion of training and the propagation of the culture of labor.
We will continue development and we will assume the principles of wise governance in running the state and the society. We will work in the interest of the religion, homeland and citizens.
Our region is in a critical stage of various struggles and crises. This matter necessitates redoubled efforts of Saudi diplomacy at the regional and international level. We have pursued dialogue, consultation and prevalence of mind and wisdom to confront threats, to prevent their escalation, to diffuse situations, to avoid destructive struggles, and to peacefully solve problems according to teachings dictated by our religion, conscience and sense of responsibility.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has assumed its responsibility during the critical stage. The Kingdom hosted the extraordinary summit in Makkah. The Kingdom assumed the presidency of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit held in Riyadh and the recent Arab summit was held in Riyadh. Emanating from its interest in reforming the situations of Arabs and Muslims and uniting their word, the Kingdom has played an active role in the Gulf, Arab and Islamic arenas to solidify the bases of cooperation to preserve the identity of Arab and Muslim nations, to defend their issues, to maintain their interests, to confront the dangers of division and struggles threatening their entities.
These struggles are topped by disputes among religious factions of Sunnah and Shia and incitement of sectarian disputes in various parts of the Muslim world, particularly in Iraq and Lebanon.
Realizing its important position and role in the Arab and Muslim world, the Kingdom has advocated non-intervention in the internal affairs of Arab, Muslim and other countries; and has equally treated all ideologies, factions and sects forming other societies and called for dialogue, understanding and reconciliation in any region witnessing seeds of sedition and division.
The GCC summit known as the “Sheikh Jaber Summit” provided a good opportunity to review the path of the GCC and cut the gap between the aspirations of the Gulf region's peoples and what has been achieved. It is legitimate for GCC citizens to dream about activating the cross relations and achieving economic unity among GCC countries and obtaining economic citizenship. The Sheikh Jaber Summit has adopted what meets these aspirations including the customs union, joint market and monetary union and has enhanced cooperation and integration in other strategic fields.
We are going to work with our brothers in the GCC to overcome all obstacles derailing the march of the group and to invigorate the momentum towards integration. With the welfare of GCC citizens the priority of their governments, the emergence of regional challenges in the geography around GCC member states and the emergence of international blocs made the option of cooperation and integration a sole option.
On the Arab arena, the Palestinian issue remains the primary Arab issue and is at the core of the political movement of the Kingdom at the regional and international arenas. As is the case for the Palestinian people and the Arab and Islamic nations, we in Saudi Arabia were deeply concerned by the incidents witnessed by the internal Palestinian field. Aggravation of the Palestinian internal dispute and its continuation negatively impact the entire cause, including the legitimate Arab and Palestinian demands. As a result of this situation, we called for the Makkah meeting of the Palestinian factions to stop the bloodshed and unify their ranks.
Thanks to Allah almighty, our brothers the Palestinians reached an agreement of their own will to form a national unity government. However, the Palestinian issue will continue to be the core of our efforts to reach a fair, comprehensive and permanent solution according to Arab summit resolutions that confirm peace as a strategic option, including the Arab Peace Initiative adopted by the Beirut Summit and reconfirmed by other Arab summits, particularly the most recent one in Riyadh.
The internal troubles in Lebanon were a source of great concern to us as their negative repercussions threaten not only the unity of Lebanon and its people, but its sovereignty and independence – a matter which will have ramifications on the stability and security of the entire region. As a result, strenuous efforts were exerted to contain the crisis and defuse the explosive situation through a policy of dialogue and consultation among all Lebanese without exception, aimed at rapprochement among the foes and stopping escalation in word and deed.
Now, I avail myself of this opportunity and call on the Lebanese factions to use the current calm to tackle the matter through dialogue and understanding and to maintain the country’s integrity and sovereignty. We will spare no effort to provide support on the bilateral and international levels for Lebanon's economy and the country’s reconstruction.
I think all of us share the same feelings as we see Iraq racked with violence and massacres on a daily basis. The Kingdom was eager to take part in all regional, Arab and international meetings and conferences held on the issue of Iraq that were aimed at restoring Iraq’s security and stability and building of its national unity on the principles of equality and in rights, duties and share of national wealth, regardless of Iraq’s sects, races and cultures.
As for Darfur, we were also dedicated to holding a meeting on the fringes of the Riyadh summit between Sudanese leaders, led by president Omar Al-Bashir, with the UN Secretary-General and concerned African concerned parties in attendance, in the hopes that such a meeting would be a step further towards agreement on the Darfur issue.
On Somalia, we called on all warring Somali factions to meet to resolve their problems and expressed our welcome to them in the Kingdom if they opted to do so, hoping that such a meeting would forge restoration of stability in Somalia.
Dear brothers: The nuclear file crisis in the region has emerged as a new burden to be added to consecutive crises. Saudi diplomacy has essayed to treat this file in a peaceful manner with the utmost wisdom and objectivity and avoid of tension and frustration aiming at guaranteeing that the Middle Eastern countries remain free of weapons of mass destruction while observing the right of all countries of the region to obtain nuclear energy for peaceful purposes according to IAEA standards without the exception of any country in the region, including Israel.
At the 27th GCC summit in Riyadh, we adopted a strategic resolution calling for introducing nuclear technology to the GCC member states and we vowed to provide a good example of the peaceful usage of nuclear technology and not misuse it militarily.
Saudi foreign policy has been based on firm beliefs taking into consideration the continuing importance of seeking Arab unity, enhancing solidarity among Arab countries and consolidating the values of Islamic brotherhood among all Muslims, regardless of their origins and sects. This policy also eschews sedition and difference and extends the bridges of understanding and cooperation among all peoples of the world, in a way that consolidates the principles of international legitimacy and confirms dialogue among different civilizations and cultures.
Dear Brothers: Based on awareness of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia of its international responsibilities towards global peacekeeping and the enhancement of cooperation and rapprochement among countries and peoples, I visited a number of Islamic and friendly Asian countries, including China, India, Malaysia and Pakistan. These visits contributed to boosting the relations with these countries through numerous agreements covering economic, security, cultural, and scientific fields, as well as through the exchange of views with the leaders of those countries on regional issues.
Expanding the framework of the Kingdom’s relations eastwards was the result of national interest considerations as well as developments in the international political system. The Kingdom is China’s biggest trade partner in west Asia and North Africa, while India is the Kingdom’s fourth largest trade partner. In addition to this, China, and India have their influence on regional and international policies. Meanwhile, we share the bond of religion with Pakistan and Malaysia, in addition to diplomatic and economic relations. I also visited Turkey, a visit that culminated in the signing of a number of agreements and memorandums of understanding aimed at enhancing relations between our two countries as well as Islamic cooperation and rapprochement.
Summit diplomacy has shaped its own map in today’s world as an effective means to enhance relations between countries and as a tool to achieve international peace. Based on this, such visits will be repeated in future (God willing).
In the field of petroleum, the Kingdom is well aware of its international responsibilities. Hence, it seeks to achieve fair oil prices, taking into consideration the interests of both producers and consumers. The Kingdom also seeks to enhance its production capacity to enable it to meet its obligations towards the national development on one hand and the requirements of the world economy on the other.
International peace faces new unprecedented challenges represented by the cultural confrontation among nations. Such provocations, sometimes accompanied by defamation of the prophets, considerably aggravate the situation among the world’s peoples and increase hostilities among its nations. Humanitarian interest and the enhancement of world peace require confronting these negative concepts with all means.
Dear Brothers: The kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a peace-loving country that respects human rights and works to utilize its wealth to achieve the aspirations of its own people as well as those of Arab and Islamic countries within a joint humanitarian concept, just as all the world's peace-loving countries do.
In conclusion, let me appeal to Allah almighty to preserve our country and let it continue to enjoy security and stability.
Wa alsalamu alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatu.